Liberian Ambassador on Fatal Fire Scene: It Reminds Me of Home

When Liberian Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh walked through the scene of the deadly fire on the 6500 block of Gesner Street late Tuesday, he said he felt the full weight of the tragedy that occurred on the Southwest Philadelphia block.

"I feel very, very horrible," he said while standing on the charred porch of 6518 Gesner. "I feel like I was also part of this thing. I feel like that day I was sitting here when four innocent little children died; not at their campus, not at their daycare, but at their home."


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Sulunteh compared the fire scene to that of a war zone in his home country.

"This reminds me of my own situation back home. When I stepped out there I thought I was back in a war zone where innocent children were slaughtered," he said "It breaks my heart."

The ambassador cancelled a full day's schedule of meetings to visit with family members of the fire victims and members of the immediate community.

Sulunteh held the near hour long meeting in a room in the Christ International Baptist Church. The church has served as a hub for donations for the fire victims.

Sulunteh observed the mounds of bags of donated food items and clothes that were being sorted in the church's basement.

The goal of his visit, Sulunteh said, was to get to the bottom of the cause of the fire, find a working solution to prevent similar tragedies from occurring, and to keep members of the Liberian community calm.

"We would like to see what went wrong, what was the cause, how did it happen, and how can we prevent this kind of thing from happening to others. It is this family today, it could be another family tomorrow," he said.

"The message is, the first thing is to keep calm and to engage the government to see how in the future how can we protect our children."

Four children, one-month-old Taj Jacque and his older brother, Patrick Sanyeah, and four-year-old twin sisters Maria and Marialla Bowah died in the massive fire that destroyed eight homes on Gesner Street shortly after 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.

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